Although each of the interpretations here presented are dedication to the wonderful composers and musicians who have shaped me musically, this collection of songs was birthed from my desire to honor the memory of the most caring person this planet has ever known. Every song is for her.
A few months before I was born, it became clear to my parents that, with a second small child in the house, they would need extra help. Consequently, my maternal grandmother, after securing the proper paperwork, flew in from Colombia to care for my sister and me during the daytime while our parents worked. During her three years here, she was my unrivaled hero, so much so that whenever she returned to Colombia I would grow sick and disobedient, and upon her return would become instantly as well-mannered and healthy as the day she had left.
In 2004, when her left leg was amputated up to the knee after an accident with a motorist, we spent the better part of our summer vacation in Colombia indoors, caring for her. She no longer seemed strong and resilient, and suddenly was as dependent on me as I had once been on her. She was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s in 2011, and between her withering physical and mental capacities and my deteriorating Spanish, our ability to communicate and interact as we once had, a time all but drowned by my later memories, was mostly lost.
A few years ago, while visiting Condoto, my mother's hometown in Colombia, we once more spent the majority of our time caring for my grandmother. The small town gets the heaviest rains of the year during the nights of early summer; the dirt roads run with mud, the electricity goes out for miles around, and little can be heard over the pounding of the drops atop the corrugated tin roofs that mark the poverty of the region. On one evening of the sort, my grandmother, tired of shouting non-sequiturs over the rain, as my mother, aunt, and I busily lit candles and hurriedly set buckets under leaks, soiled herself and promptly fell asleep.
After identifying the smell, waking my grandmother, and half-carrying her to her bed as she fought to keep all weight off of her prosthetic leg, the three of us began to strip her of her clothes. Disoriented and modest before a room of people she couldn't recognize, she thrashed and kicked in the low light of the candles until, fully naked below the waist, she resigned herself to being cleaned and stared studiously at our faces, trying to identify us. As the electricity returned and the rain died down, I sat with her, entertaining her disjointed thoughts as my mother and aunt hand-washed her clothes in tubs of rainwater. She ranted about a banker and a group of nameless children, holding neither topic long enough for me to make any sense of the larger picture, if there was one. So I stared at her sweaty, baffled face and tried my best to seem convinced, until, forgetting myself, I sadly admitted during one of her mid-sentence pauses that I had little understanding of what she was trying to communicate and was sure she didn’t know who I was.
“But these are your fingers, aren’t they?” she asked, grabbing my hand, as if her question were the logical response to my confession. Taken aback by the sudden direct contact, which sharply contrasted her usual reticence and confusion, I agreed that they were, flipping our joined hands and asking her in turn: “And these are yours, no?”
She nodded, satisfied briefly with her breakthrough, then immediately began ranting about trains. Yet, at that moment, her question made sense: whether she recognized me or not, our fingers, our immediate physical connection, were all that mattered. The subtext of her dementia-confused question was simple: 'We're together, right?' And I realized then that although our roles had reversed, our underlying familial bond remained apparent to her even in her deepest disorientation. I didn’t mind the change – we were, and are, family.
released November 18, 2020
Tomin Perea-Chamblee - Alto, Bass, Soprano Clarinets and Cornet; Production
Vasilio Mosko - Executive Production, Recording
Gabe Wax - Mixing
Caleb Giles - Additional Recording
Linton Smith II - Additional Transcription
All recording done in Uptown Manhattan and the Bronx.